Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Persepolis: The Film

The film Persepolis, based on two books of the same name by Marjane Satrapi, was an interesting exploration of freedom as well as a powerful reminder of its cost. The second half of the movie (based on Persepolis 2) was darker, sadder than the first, in part due to the scenes of homelessness and grief/depression, which were really well done. It was hard to watch her lose that spark she had throughout the first part of the movie and I was stunned to find out she was only twenty-one when she married because it seemed that she had lived so much life by then. She matured right in front of our eyes, which was part of the magic of the story, I thought.

I noticed the animation throughout the film, which may have distracted me from the storyline a little. I appreciated the cinematography - the darks and lights coming and going, mixing and matching, and having the color added in tastefully, and only for the present tense (I think). The graphic approach was innovative and interesting, and allowed for visual- and auditory-based insights without words, (emotional affect and gestures, sound effects like bombs or sighs, ages/genders, veil positions, flowers falling from bras etc). As a writer the graphic style memoir reminds me to paint the picture for my reader and that dialog and gestures can carry much of the story. One downside of the animation technique is that as a reader/viewer I am left with a stark 2-D memory of it instead of a fully imagined scene with humans and space, color and warmth.

That said, it was still a moving film. One of the most memorable parts of the movie for me was her insight following her deep dark depression. It was something like: after surviving an oppressive regime, bomb threats and bombs, and the deaths of family and friends, it was the let down, the betrayal, the personal loss of her relationship that brought her to her knees. To me, this reflected back on the solid family life Marjane had growing up. Her parents and her grandmother consistently loved and respected Marjane, and one another, and it is this that allowed her to survive all the other horrors emotionally intact.

But despite her upbringing, and her precocious and outspoken nature, it took Marjane a good long time for her to find her own internal strength, to become whole within herself, so to speak. She seemed to discover by the end of the film that she was free to choose, in fact, must choose, how to be a person, be that in a restrictive fundamentalist or a no-holds-barred country. And that her soul (if that’s not overstating it too much) isn’t determined by what she wears, or whom she hangs out with, or even what she believes, instead, how she dresses, who she chooses to have in her life, and how she manifests her own beliefs are determined by her soul, her real self. This is something her father tries to tell her whenever he leaves her at an airport and says, “Remember who you are.”

One doesn’t know, for sure, by the end of the movie whether she’ll keep in touch with that or not, although, of course, we suspect she will. But by leaving that a bit open, the viewers can look within themselves and try to answer some of these same questions.


  1. Janice--I like your interpretation of the open-endedness. Sometimes I want a more concrete ending or structure, and I forget the value in free interpretation of the broader strokes of storytelling.

    I like that you touch upon the 2-D aspect. Something I didn't really think about, but it's true I think that this is even more noticeable in the film than in the book, because we expect to see three dimensions on screen, and it can be somewhat jarring to see the comic come alive this way, because it is not fully alive. It's interesting to think of how differently it would have played out had it been cast in three dimensions. It's hard for me to imagine just how the effect would be different--would it have seemed more or less traumatic, for example?

  2. I agree, Janice that the film limits our imaginary vision of what this story could hold, because we can't ignore these strong black and white, stationary images. And, I hadn't noticed how much darker the second half of the film was...following that cliche statement "ignorance is bliss". The child MS was full of much more vibrancy and spark, much due to her ignorance of the horror that surrounded her.

  3. And I'm glad that the film reminds you to paint a picture for your reader, and of the importance of dialogue and gesture.


Please feel free to jot down your thoughts. I would appreciate knowing your reaction if any, to what I've written, and/or your feedback on how I've written it. I am actively trying to be a better writer.